In the past, we have brought portable CD players, iPods, headphones and computer speakers to shows and festivals, but we have found them limiting for a number of reasons:
First, carrying around an old CD player or putting an iPod on our merchandise table looks very unprofessional.
Second, with headphones, only one person can listen at a time. This means that groups of friends have to take turns, generally shortening the length of time that each person listens to less than 10 seconds (far too short to make a great impression and sell a CD).
Third, computer speakers leave wires strewn about, and they're usually not loud enough to be heard over another band, or even just a group of people talking. Even worse, they generally don't sound that great, which might turn people off.
Our first attempt was to purchase a headphone distribution amplifier to allow groups to all listen with headphones at the same time. Before we had a chance to implement this system, we already realized that the number of wires on the table would be too much--even if the CD sounded good, our table would look unprofessional. It also put an 80 gig iPod at risk of theft. Finally, we still needed a way to transport all of the equipment.
One old briefcase, some extra road-case foam, and a few hours later, we had come up with a solution which not only stored and displayed all of our gear, but attracted people to our table asking, "What is that?"
We just returned from our first music festival. The verdict? Our CD sales were almost 500% above average! Clearly, this $120 "listening station" has already paid for itself several times over.
Read on as we dive in to building your very own "Portable Point of Sale Listening Kiosk"
Step 1: What you will need
Music Player - We chose an iPod because we already had one, it's attractive, and it's easy for the average person to use (for skipping tracks). CD players tend to skip and they look a little dated at this point. If an iPod is not available, something like the Make Daisy could work great. If we were better with electronics, we would probably incorporate this at a later time. IMPORTANT: Find something with a display. Listeners will want to see the song titles, or the track numbers so they can follow along the track listing on the disc.
Headphone distribution amplifier - We used a Rolls HA43, available here. It's about $50, but behringer makes one for about $20. Find something with 3-5 channels, each having an independent volume control. For this design, we prefer controls on top to controls on the front. Professional models can cost upwards of $900. For a project like this, just stick to something under $50.
Headphones - Look for over the ear headphones with a "closed design." We used two pair of Sennheiser HD201's, which go for about $25 each. Soon after purchasing, we found a four pack of AKG headphones on musiciansfriend.com for about $60. Shop around, but find something that cuts out a lot of noise and is comfortable to wear. You'll need at least two, just leave one channel free on the amp to plug the speakers into. Note, many online music stores sell a bundle containing multiple pairs of headphones and a distribution amp. These are generally a great deal, so shop around!
Cables - Find whatever is necessary to attach your music player to your distribution amplifier. In our case, we used a 1/8"-1/8" stereo "aux" cable and a 1/4" adapter from radio shack. Find whatever is necessary for your situation, and look for something about 12 inches long.
Powered Speakers - Look for the cheapest computer speakers you can find, and go one or two steps up. Don't spend more than $20. They're really only for people who are afraid of sharing headphones or for large groups of people. We did find them helpful in being able to monitor what people were listening to, and in seeing people's reaction to different songs.
Power Strip - Look for something inexpensive that fits your color scheme, or paint it like we did. You don't really need a surge protector or a breaker unless your paranoid.
Old Briefcase - Find something cheap or free. Ours was an old Samsonite case with a hard plastic exterior. It inspired the "look" of the kiosk, which looks like an FBI gadget or a bomb or something.
High Density Foam - We had a road case which arrived with lots of extra "pick and fit" foam. If you cant get this, you can find rigid polyethylene foam from many sources.
Tools - A drill with a 1 1/4 inch paddle bit, utility knife, and a hacksaw.